Brooks: Emotional Meeting Awaits Boyle, Turgeon
BOULDER - When Tad Boyle was hired by Colorado last spring to coach its men's basketball team, he spent a portion of his introductory team meeting asking his returning players to jot down the names of three people who had impacted their lives.
Ask Boyle to do the same today and Mark Turgeon's name will appear in his top five . . . maybe even higher.
It's never comfortable when a pair of ex-teammates/colleagues/close friends is pitted against one another as head coaches. That will happen Wednesday night when Turgeon brings his fourth Texas A&M team to the Coors Events Center to face Boyle's first CU team.
Unless they play again in the Big 12 Conference postseason tournament, it will be the only Boyle-Turgeon matchup - and that might be fine with both coaches.
"It's not going to be a lot of fun," Turgeon said Monday. "But when we throw it up, when the game starts, he's trying to figure out a way to win, I'm trying to figure out a way to win . . . I just hope we win. I'll have to hear it from all our friends if we don't. We've got a group of buddies coming out and they'll be at the game. It will be good to see them. Tad and I aren't really looking forward to this game, to be quite honest with you."
Boyle and Turgeon played together for two seasons at Kansas under Larry Brown, then went in different directions - Turgeon toward coaching, Boyle toward business. But a change was coming for Boyle, whose work as a Pearl Street stockbroker was financially gratifying but unfulfilling otherwise. Coaching tugged at his heart; he made stops at Greeley West, Loveland and Longmont High Schools before Turgeon, an Oregon assistant, convinced head coach Jerry Green that Boyle would be a perfect fit on the Ducks' staff.
When CU hired Boyle in April, Turgeon told me this story on luring his friend to Eugene: "I kind of had Coach Green's arm twisted behind his back. Tad jumped at it, but what I couldn't figure was he was making six figures and he leaves to make about $15,000 at Oregon . . . now, 16 or 17 years later, he's doing what he wants to do - and he's gotten real good at it."
Boyle credits "Turge" for much of his hoops savvy and his coaching methodology: "I picked up so much from him . . . I really owe him a lot. Plus, he's a good friend."
Turgeon returns the compliment: "Good coaches never stop trying to get better, and Tad does that. He was great as an assistant - extremely loyal, hard working and positive . . . a lot of the success I've had as a head coach is because of Tad. He was a great recruiter."
In addition to their time together at Oregon, Boyle worked on two of Turgeon's staffs when Turgeon became a head coach at Jacksonville State (Alabama) and Wichita State. Their paths split when Boyle took the Northern Colorado job in 2006 and Turgeon took the A&M job a season later.
Boyle recalls a conversation with Turgeon about their futures when they were at Wichita State: "He said where do you want to be 10 years from now? I told him I want to be the head coach at the University of Colorado."
Mission accomplished - at least Step One of the mission.
"There was no question, he was always a smart player back in the day, he was our captain, we all respected him and looked up to him," Turgeon recalled. "You knew he had leadership qualities. He wasn't interested in coaching back in college. But then I watched his high school team play and watched him coach and what he did with that program . . .
"I knew he was going to be successful; coaching is coaching, no matter what level you're at. It's getting guys to do what you want them to do, and he's been able to do that at all levels. I had a lot of success with Tad as my assistant; we won a lot of games and built some programs up from nothing and had a lot of success. He had just as much to do with that as I did. So it doesn't surprise me what he's doing at Colorado."
Boyle can say the same thing about Turgeon's tenure at A&M, although the Aggies have hit a rough patch over the last three weeks. In mid-January, they were 17-1 and ranked as high as No. 10 (ESPN/USA Today). Since then, they've lost four out of five, including three straight, and now are 17-5 overall, 4-4 in the Big 12. They've fallen to No. 22 in both polls.
Turgeon said when they were coaching together, "Times like these, what I'm going through right now with this team, Tad was always the best to help me get through it. I've had a lot of success with him. But hopefully this is the only time that we'll ever have to play."
A&M has lost two consecutive home games, with Baylor winning 76-74 in overtime at College Station on Saturday. As odd as it sounds in a league where "road" is nearly a four-letter profanity, Turgeon says getting away from home might inspire the Aggies: "It might be good for us after losing two straight at home . . . the road's never easy, but we have to figure some things out - we have to be a lot tougher, have to be better to start a game. It's not easy to come back when you're behind (on the road), so we have to be better at the beginning.
"Going on the road, we're going to have to be good from the beginning to be successful. I think it'll be good for us. It's not going to be easy at Colorado. Obviously, the way they score the basketball makes it tough on us. But I think our guys are looking forward to the challenge of getting on the road."
Besides the Boyle-Turgeon ties, there will be another familiarity factor at work on Wednesday night. "Their whole staff (Boyle, assistants Mike Rohn and Jean Prioleau) was my staff at Wichita State; they're going to know us pretty well," Turgeon said. "It'll be awkward at the beginning, but once the game starts, you just coach your team."
Given their backgrounds, Boyle believes he knows what to expect from a Turgeon-coached team. "I'm certainly more familiar with some of the things they do offensively," he said. "But Mark's a good coach, he obviously tweaks things each year and adjusts his personnel. Obviously, I've got a pretty good feel for his system and what he does. But the flip side of that is true as well, so I'm not sure there's advantage for either side . . .
"Again, they have different strengths and weaknesses (from what he remembers about their Wichita State teams). But the overall philosophy and the way he coaches and approaches the game, I don't think his core values have changed a lot since our days together at Wichita."
Neither have Boyle's - a fact Turgeon recognizes along with the realization that his friend and former assistant appears to be in a good place.
"He's got a good team; he knew this was the year he could win with the guards he has," Turgeon said. "He was excited (about the CU job), and I think he's done a tremendous job with this team."
They'll shake hands Wednesday night, maybe exchange a hug, and begin coaching. They're working at jobs they love - some nights more than others.